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Animal Cruelty

Most crimes for cruelty to animals are prosecuted under Florida Statute Section Section 828.12. Under Florida’s animal cruelty statute, a person commits the crime if he or she does the following:

“unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner.”

Animal cruelty crimes often involve an accusation that the defendant confined an animal without sufficient food, water or exercise.

Other common examples of animal cruelty include allegations of abuse or neglect involving dogfighting or cockfighting, locking an animal in a vehicle, or not properly caring for a sick or injured animal.

Section 828.12(3), F.S., provides that if a person commits multiple acts of animal cruelty or aggravated animal cruelty against an animal, the defendant may be charged with a separate offense for each such act.

A person who commits animal cruelty or aggravated animal cruelty against more than one animal may be charged with a separate offense for each animal such cruelty was committed upon.

Attorneys for Animal Cruelty Charges in Tampa, FL

If you were charged with any type of animal cruelty crime, including aggravated animal cruelty, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL.

Although we are selective in the cases we take, we represent clients charged with a variety of serious criminal offenses in the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Hernando County, Pasco County, and Polk County, Florida.

In addition to animal cruelty allegations charged under Florida Statute Section 828.13, related crimes include:

  • animal poisoning under Section 828.08;
  • animal confinement and abandonment under Section 828.13; and
  • animal fighting under Section 828.122.

Contact us to find out more about the different ways the crime can be charged, the potential penalties for each offense, and the best ways to fight for a dismissal of the charges.

Call (813) 250-0500 today to discuss your case.


Can You Seal or Expunge the Animal Cruelty Charge?

Can you seal or expunge a misdemeanor charge for cruelty to animals under Section 828.12(1)? If the misdemeanor animal cruelty charge under Section 828.12(1) is dropped or dismissed, then you might be eligible to expunge the record, but only if you have no other convictions in Florida that would disqualify you for this type of relief.

On the other hand, if you are “convicted” of cruelty to animals under s. 828.12(1), then you will never be eligible to seal or expunge that record.

In fact, although most misdemeanor convictions will not prevent you from sealing or expunging another qualified criminal history record, even a misdemeanor “conviction” for cruelty to animals under s. 828.12(1) is particularly serious because it will automatically prohibit you from ever being eligible to seal or expunge any other record in Florida.

For this reason, it is important to avoid a “conviction” by getting the court to withhold adjudication. If you get a withhold of adjudication and successfully complete probation, then you might be eligible to seal the record.

If you have questions about whether you can seal or expunge an arrest record after an arrest for cruelty to animals under s. 828.12(1), then contact the criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL.


Florida’s Definition of an “Animal”

Most allegations of cruelty involve pets such as dogs and cats. Other allegations involve livestock such as pigs, cattle, and chicken. Under the statutory scheme for animal cruelty charges, the term “animal” is defined to include every “living dumb creature.”

In Wilkerson v. State, 401 So. 2d 1110, 1112 (1981), the Florida Supreme Court held that the “animal” definition necessarily “excludes human beings from the commonly understood definition of animals.”


Aggravated Animal Cruelty Crimes in Florida

A person commits aggravated animal cruelty, if he or she intentionally commits an act to any animal, or a person who owns or has the custody or control of any animal and fails to act, which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done.


Penalties in Florida for Cruelty to Animals Crimes

In most cases, the crime of animal cruelty is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. Although a first-degree misdemeanor is typically punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, the animal cruelty statute authorizes a fine of not more than $5,000 as provided in Section 775.083(1)(g), F.S.

If the criminal offense is charged as “aggravated animal cruelty,” then the offense is charged as a third-degree felony. Although a third-degree felony normally authorizes a fine of up to $5,000, the animal cruelty statute authorizes a fine of up to $10,000. Also, if a person intentionally trips, fells, ropes, or lassos the legs of a horse for entertainment or sport, then the offense is charged as a third-degree felony.

As provides in Section Section 921.0022(3)(c), aggravated animal cruelty is a Level 3 offense on the Offense Severity Ranking Chart of the Code that results in sixteen (16) sentencing points being assigned to the offense of aggravated animal cruelty for purposes of calculating the lowest permissible sentence.

Under Section 828.12(5), a person convicted of aggravated animal cruelty, where the finder of fact determines that the violation included the knowing and intentional torture or torment of an animal which injured, mutilated, or killed the animal, must be ordered to pay a minimum mandatory fine of $2,500 and undergo psychological counseling or complete an anger management treatment program.

Under Section 828.12(2)(a), a person “convicted” of a second or subsequent conviction of aggravated animal cruelty must pay a minimum mandatory fine of $5,000 and serve a minimum mandatory period of incarceration of six (6) months.

Under Section 828.12(2)(b), the person is not eligible for parole, control release, or any form of early release, and must serve 100 percent of the court-imposed sentence.


Examples of Animal Cruelty Crimes

The most common examples of animal cruelty crimes prosecuted in Florida include:

  • 8230B – 823.041(1),(2) AND (3) – UNLAWFUL DISPOSAL OF DEAD ANIMAL
  • 8281A – 828.12(1) – CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
  • 8281B – 828.12(2) – FELONY CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
  • 8281C – 828.122(3) – ANIMAL FIGHTING
  • 8281C1 – 828.122(3)(G)AND(H)  – BETTING ON OR ATTENDING AN ANIMAL FIGHT
  • 8281D1 – 828.13(2) – UNLAWFUL ABANDONMENT OR CONFINEMENT OF ANIMAL
  • 8281D2 – 828.13(3) – ABANDONMENT OF ANIMAL
  • 8281E1 – 828.123  – KILLING DOGS OR CATS FOR PURPOSES OF SELLING PELTS, UNLAWFUL POSSESSION, UNLAWFUL IMPORTATION, DEALING OR BUYING, SALE OF CLOTHING, SALE
  • 8281H – 828.125(1) – KILLING OR AGGRAVATED ABUSE OF HORSES OR CATTLE, ATTEMPT, SOLICIT OR CONSPIRE TO KILL OR ABUSE , CONSPIRACY/SOLICITATION/CONFEDERATES TO KILL OR COMMIT ABUSE, THREATEN TO KILL OR ABUSE
  • 8282A – 828.29(1)(A), (1)(B), (2)(A), AND (17) – VIOLATION OF HEALTH REQUIREMENTS – DOGS/CATS TRANSPORTED OR OFFERED FOR SALE
  • 8282B – 828.24(1) AND (2) – KILLING ANIMALS BY NON-HUMANE METHODS
  • 5811A1 – 581.185(3)(A) HARVEST ENDANGERED PLANT WITHOUT PERMIT

County or City Ordinance for Animal Cruelty

Section 828.27, F.S., gives the governing body of a county or municipality the authority to enact ordinances relating to animal control or cruelty. A violation of a city or county ordinance is a civil infraction, with a maximum civil penalty not to exceed $500.

In Florida, twenty-three (23) counties, including Hillsborough County, have ordinances in place prohibiting a dog from being outside or tethered during periods of extreme weather conditions, such as extreme heat, freezing or near-freezing temperatures, during thunderstorms, lightning storms, tornado watches or warnings, or during tropical storm or hurricane watches or warnings.

Other nearby counties with similar ordinances including Hernando County and Sarasota County.


Additional Resources

Ways Animal Cruelty is Reported in Hillsborough County, FL – Visit the website of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida to learn more about who to contact about a suspected incident of animal cruelty. Many of these tips that an animal has been abused, neglected, or otherwise victimized are reported to local law enforcement agencies, local animal control agencies, the SPCA, the Humane Society, or Hillsborough County Pet Resources. Tips about suspected cases of animal cruelty are often made anonymously.


This article was last updated on Friday, May 1, 2020.

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